Monday News: Time for that off-ramp


UNC REPORTS FOURTH CLUSTER OF CORONAVIRUS CASES SINCE FRIDAY: The university reported its fourth cluster of coronavirus cases on Sunday, according to a campus alert. The cluster, which is defined as five or more cases in close proximity, is located at Hinton James residence hall. Individuals in the cluster are isolated and being monitored, according to the alert. UNC reported two clusters of the novel coronavirus in Ehringhaus Community and Granville Towers on Friday, The News & Observer previously reported. The faculty committee announced it would hold a remote special meeting shortly after those clusters were announced. UNC reported a third cluster at off-campus fraternity Sigma Nu on Saturday. After it was announced, faculty chair Mimi Chapman urged the UNC System Board of Governors to give the campus chancellor “authority to make decisions” in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

WAKE SCHOOLS WILL BE ONLINE UNTIL OCT.22, DEVICES WILL BE PROVIDED: Out of the 161,900 students in the Wake County district, 82,628 are enrolled in the all-online Virtual Academy. That’s a little over half the students in the district. All students will learn from home for the first several weeks of school. WCPSS said it is processing more than 38,000 requests for laptops and devices for online learning. School officials said that, although distribution begins Monday, most devices will not be ready to be picked up then. Those who indicated they needed devices in a recent survey will get a notification by email when their device is ready to be picked up. Officials ask that parents and students wait until their assigned pick-up date to go to a distribution site. If you do go to a distribution sight on a date not assigned to you, there will not be any devices available for you, according to WCPSS. Families will be notified three days before their pick-up date. Devices can be picked up at any time on the assigned day.

JUDGE ORDERS ALAMANCE SHERIFF TO ALLOW FULL ACCESS TO PROTESTERS: A federal judge has ordered Alamance County and the Sheriff’s Office to allow all protests around the Historic Courthouse, the courthouse steps and the area between the steps and the Confederate monument. Judge Catherine Eagles granted a request by the Alamance branch of the NAACP and the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law representing it for a temporary injunction barring the Sheriff’s Office from blocking protesters from areas of the courthouse grounds, including the “police safety zone” around the monument and front steps. While the county submitted new rules for giving protesters access to the courthouse, Eagles found they were still too broad and restrictive to simply prevent violence or vandalism, and would probably be found to violate protesters' free-speech rights in a final court decision. “The long-term total prohibition of protests on these traditional public forums is not a time, place and manner restriction of speech, nor is it narrowly tailored to protect legitimate governmental interests,” Eagles wrote in her order issued late Friday afternoon.

BIDEN-HARRIS LEAD IN POLLS AS DEM CONVENTION BEGINS TODAY: The first day of the 2020 Democratic National Convention will be like none before: It was supposed to be a gathering for the party in Milwaukee, drawing thousands to a swing state that Democrats barely lost at the presidential level in 2016. Instead, the coronavirus pandemic has forced it to be mostly virtual, a mishmash of webcam speeches and produced videos from across the country. The public events start at 9 p.m. Eastern time. Speakers on the first day include some big Democratic names, notably Michelle Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and one prominent never-Trump Republican, former Ohio governor John Kasich. Democrats’ plan on this first night seems to be to convey just how big their tent is for any voter who does not like President Trump: from the far left to the center of the Democratic establishment to Republicans. In a nod to the issue dominating Americans’ lives and this election, Monday night will also feature governors whose star has risen in the party while fighting the coronavirus, such as Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and New York’s Andrew M. Cuomo. Monday night will be all about getting used to the format, since a convention has never been done like this before (Republicans have their convention next week). On one hand, it might not feel that different from tuning into any other TV show during the pandemic, with choppy, sometimes homemade videos all pieced together into one show. But will not having a central stage — and a crowd — handicap Democrats’ ability to convey excitement about their 2020 platform? This will really be the first time they will take center stage over Trump since this pandemic started. The coronavirus pandemic has reshaped all of 2020′s major events, including the political conventions.

PELOSI CALLS HOUSE BACK INTO SESSION TO PROTECT POSTAL SERVICE FROM TRUMP: Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California announced on Sunday that she would call the House back from its annual summer recess for a vote this week on legislation to block changes at the Postal Service that voting advocates warn could disenfranchise Americans casting ballots by mail during the pandemic. The announcement came after the White House chief of staff on Sunday signaled openness to providing emergency funding to help the agency handle a surge in mail-in ballots, and as Democratic state attorneys general said that they were exploring legal action against cutbacks and changes at the Postal Service. The moves underscored rising concern across the country over the integrity of the November election and how the Postal Service will handle as many as 80 million ballots cast by Americans worried about venturing to polling stations because of the coronavirus. President Trump has repeatedly derided mail voting as vulnerable to fraud, without evidence, and the issue had become a prominent sticking point in negotiations over the next round of coronavirus relief. The House was not scheduled to return for votes until Sept. 14, but is now expected to consider a Postal Service bill as soon as Saturday, according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the plans. Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, is expected to announce the final schedule on Monday. The abrupt return to Washington was announced just hours after Democrats called on top Postal Service officials to testify on Capitol Hill this month about recent policies that they warned pose “a grave threat to the integrity of the election.” It also demonstrates the growing alarm over changes the Postal Service is enforcing under its leader, Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general and a Trump megadonor, less than three months before a general election. Some of the changes, which Mr. DeJoy describes as cost-cutting measures, include ending overtime pay and the removal or transfer of some sorting machines.



Every day that people go to their mailbox

to see if their prescriptions (or their Social Security checks) have arrived, only to find it empty, is a day that Trump loses some of his voters. It won't be his last mistake, but it might be his biggest.

And the off-ramp it is...

UNC-Chapel Hill undergrads will go online only in two days:

UNC System President Peter Hans said: “There are no easy answers as the nation navigates through the pandemic. At this point we haven’t received any information that would lead to similar modifications at any of our other universities. Whether at Chapel Hill or another institution, students must continue to wear facial coverings and maintain social distancing, as their personal responsibility, particularly in off-campus settings, is critical to the success of this semester and to protect public health.”

Campus Health Services reported a significant rise in positive COVID-19 tests over the past week (Aug. 10-16). Currently, 177 students are in isolation and 349 are in quarantine, both on and off campus.

To mitigate continued community spread within residence halls and contain the virus, the University is working with the UNC System office to identify the most effective way to decrease residential density on campus. Students will have the opportunity to cancel housing requests with no penalty. Residents who have hardships, such as lack of access to reliable internet access, international students or student-athletes will have the option to remain on campus.

The University’s research enterprise will remain unchanged. Courses in the graduate, professional and health affairs schools will continue to be taught as they are or as directed by the schools. Academic advising and academic support services will be available online.

It was a good call. Shouldn't have started in-person anyway, but that's tainted water under the bridge.